Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The Long and Winding Road

The Baseball season is practically upon us so it's time for the most anticipated event of the spring; my annual baseball predictions. Last year I predicted a subway series between the Mets and the Yankees. I also predicted that Arod and Pujols would win MVPs. I was wrong, but that's the risk you take in making predictions. I am willing to do it because I know that I provide an invaluable service to my reader(s) (I'm being optimistic). Anyway, on to the picks.

AL Division winners:
Boston, Cleveland, Angels

NY Yankees

The Yankees have won the east for 10 years in a row and I think it's only fair that the Red Sox win one. The Red Sox have superior and younger arms on their pitching staff and one of these years, the breaks are going to go their way. I'm guessing that this is the year. Anyone one can win the central (except for the Royals), it really is a toss up between the Indians, Tigers, White Sox and Twins. The Twins pitching is fairly suspect after Santana, but they did somehow manage to win the division last year. The Tigers will probably suffer a letdown after last season although adding Gary Sheffield to the lineup certainly can't hurt. The White Sox led the majors in home runs last year, but it's their pitching that will let them down in the end. If the Indians can figure out how to find someone to close their games, they should be the last man standing at the end of the season. The Angels have gotten better by subtraction. They've finally gotten rid of the albatross that was Darrin Erstad, who turned one great year into a $40 million dollar mistake by the Angels. Bringing in Gary Matthews Jr. will help and they also probably have the best staff in the Division. The A's lost Frank Thomas but they added Mike Piazza. The best they can hope for is that the exchange turns out to be a wash. Thomas put up MVP caliber numbers last year and they are hoping that Piazza, without the burden of catching, can do the same. Rich Harden has the best arm in the AL, but he has to stay healthy in order to anchor a fairly inexperienced staff that lost Barry Zito over the winter.

Award winners:


I know I picked him last year, but the fact that is essentially in a "contract year" will give him added incentive to put up huge numbers. I also think that regardless of what happens in NY this year, he's definitely going to test the free agent waters.

Cy Young
Rich Harden

It would be silly to bet against Santana, but that's exactly what I'm doing. I am once again picking Rich Harden, who has the best pure stuff in the AL. He just has to stay healthy.

NL Division Winners:
Phillies, Brewers, Dodgers

NY Mets

I think that the Mets lack of pitching is going to hurt them in the long run. They are relying on a lot of older arms and legs to carry their staff. This is a recipe for disaster. Their offense is so good that they should be able to overcome some of their pitching issues, but it's probably going to cost them the division. I don't think that the Phillies are any better than last year, but they have a great young nucleus of talent and they should better prepared to handle a pennant race this year. I picked the Brewers to make the playoffs last year and then they went out and managed to finish under .500 for the 15th straight year. Their bullpen exploded on them last year and cost them a lot of games. As long as they have those problems sorted out, they should finally be able to make a serious run at the playoffs. The Cardinals aren't any better than the 83 win team that somehow managed to win the World Series last year. The Astros lost Andy Pettite to the Yankees and they might lose Roger Clemens as well. They added Carlos Lee to bolster their offense, but they have gaping holes in their rotation. The West will be won by the Dodgers this year. I hate to say that because I always root for the Padres. The Dodgers spent their money well in the offseason and I think they may be the most balanced team in the NL. The Padres didn't exactly set the world on fire during the offseason and, if anything, they may have taken a step backwards. I expect that Jake Peavy will have a much better year than he did in '06, but he alone won't be enough to beat back the attack from the Dodgers.


Who else? He can legitimately make the argument for the MVP every year that he has been in the league.

NL Cy Young:
Roy Oswalt
Roy Oswalt. I read somewhere that he's added a change up to his video game like arsenal of pitches. NL hitters are in trouble.

So that's the forecast. It's probably just as reliable as your local weatherman's is. Almost forgot the World Series will be an old fashioned affair. The Dodgers vs. The Yankees. It's been awhile since this former city mates have faced off. I'll take the Yankees in seven.

That's all for now. Enjoy the season everybody. I know I will.


Monday, March 19, 2007


The Sweet Sixteen is upon us. After a weekend of near upsets, the favorites are all on to the third round of the tournament. Ohio St. had the biggest scare of the weekend, with only a last second three pointer in regulation standing between them and elimination. A lot of teams that end up winning the tournament have a close call somewhere along the way. Think Maryland with a last second hail Mary 4 years ago, or Duke winning on a miracle last second shot against Kentucky (I refuse to mention the players name).

Wisconsin was the highest seed to get eliminated over the weekend and they fell prey to a team that forced tempo on them. I did say that Wisconsin would not have enough offense to overcome a team that forced them to play a high scoring game (it was probably the smartest thing I've said about this tournament). I also had no faith in Washington St., so their loss was not surprising. The seventh ranked UNLV Running Rebels now rank as the longest shot in the tournament. I'm not sure that I remember a tournament that has played so close to form in recent history. There will be no George Mason making a shambles of your brackets this year. In fact if you just picked all higher seeds to advance, you would have nine of the sweet sixteen still alive.

North Carolina survived a tough challenge from Michigan St. and it appears that Hansborough has regained his form. They will face USC in the next round who upset everyone's sleeper pick Texas. Texas featured the best player in the tournament in Kevin Durant. It's too bad that he's out before the entire nation got to experience his brilliance. He'll definitely be in the NBA next year. I'm sure that he has gone to his last class in Austin. Georgetown apparently caught a break and will face Vanderbilt in the next round. At this point though, I wouldn't say that anyone has an easy road. I think that every team left in the tournament has a legitimate chance to win it all.

I'm really just amazed that the teams that I picked to be in the final four are all still alive. Usually by this time, I'm down to one team. Texas A&M survived the toughest 2nd round game against Louisville in what amounted to a home game for the Cardinals. The committee should make it so that only #1 seeds have that kind of advantage. I'm frankly shocked that A&M survived. A&M should have a similar advantage in their next game which is going to be played in San Antonio. Anyway, I'm glad to say that after the first weekend, I'm still clinging to my predictions. I know it's all going to fall apart starting on Thursday, but for one weekend at least, I'm in my glory.


Friday, March 16, 2007

Don't Let the Door Hit You

The tournament was rolling along in a predictable fashion yesterday. There were no upsets, everything was going according to plan and then Duke hit a bump in the road. Despite racing out to a big first half lead and having a double digit lead with 11 minutes remaining in the second half, they lost to VCU on a jumper by Eric Maynor with 1.8 seconds to go in the game. I'm not sure at this point if I'm happier when UNC wins or when Duke loses. Thankfully I had the best of both worlds yesterday. Unfortunately I missed the press conference where I'm sure a tearful Coach K told the world what a wonderful group of kids he has and that he doesn't really care about winning and that it's all about teaching the kids. What a bunch of bullshit! Even though the selection committee had once again given Duke as easy a road to sweet sixteen as they could, Duke couldn't hold up their end of the bargain.

So I bid a fond farewell to the Blue Devils for another season. Let's hope that next season brings more of the same. And congratulations to Louise for picking the upset.


Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The Kiss of Death

Run for the hills! I'm about to make my NCAA picks. I am about to doom your favorite team to ignominious defeat. Before I start I have to say that I have seen about 5 college basketball games this year and UNC played in all of them. I'm not really in any position to talk about who is going to win this tournament. So that being said I will now proceed along the path of tears.

Let's talk about the #1 seeds first and what I think their problems are. Ohio St. is great defensive team with Oden patrolling the lane, but I'm not sure that they have the firepower to stay with a team that gets hot from 3 point land. They prefer a game played in the 60-70 range and I think they might be a victim of a team that dictates tempo to them. Kansas, plays in the Midwest and they've let me down on so many occasions in the past that I can't really pick them to win (thanks Jaque Vaughn). Florida won last year and the odds against a team repeating are very high. Duke managed it 15 years ago but it took a miracle shot from Christian Laetner (I hate even mentioning his name) against Kentucky to make that happen. So that leaves UNC. I'm not really able to be impartial about UNC. I pick them to win every year and they've only accommodated me twice in the past 15 years. They are facing a few problems this year. Their best player has a broken nose and has not adapted well to playing with a face mask. They rely on freshman to provide most of their offense and Roy Williams has too many players in his rotation. It's great to have depth, but rotating 12 players is more disruptive than it is helpful. They are playing the first two games close to home, but that will just allow for more distractions. If I were a betting man, I would guess that they will probably be a second round casualty at the hands of Marquette.

So now that I've dragged the #1's through the mud, who's left? The #2's of course. Memphis dominated a weak conference this year and I don't think that they are serious threat to win it all. Wisconsin suffers from the same problem as Ohio St., great defense, not enough offense. That leaves us with Georgetown and UCLA. These are the first teams that I think are serious title contenders. Georgetown is on a tear and they absolutely dominated the Big East Tournament. UCLA lost in the first round of the Pac-10 tournament, but I think they can be forgiven for having an off day. Georgetown and UCLA are my first entrants for the final four.

Texas A&M and Oregon are the best of the #3 seeds. I can certainly see Texas A&M getting to the final four and while Oregon can light it up with the best of them, I can't see their 3 point offense showing up for four games in a row. I'm thinking that their run comes to end against Florida.

So there you have it, the final four will be UCLA, Georgetown, Texas A&M and Florida. The final will be UCLA against Texas A&M with the Aggies cutting down the nets for the first time in their history. So there you have it. I hope that if any of you were considering having any of these teams win that you will now change your brackets. Sorry to all the Bruins, Hoyas, Gators and Aggies fans out there, but I had to pick somebody.

By the way, I picked UNC to win it all in my pool. Some people never learn.


Monday, March 12, 2007

It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World

The circus that is the NCAA Men's Basketball championship kicked off yesterday with the selection show. We now know the identities of the 65 teams that will vie for the coveted and non-mythical (as opposed to football) championship. So it's once again time, boys and girls, for you to fill out your brackets. I'm just here to offer some sage advice and a few tips that will help you excel.

First of all, no #16 seed has ever beaten a #1. I know it's going to happen at some point, but banking on this being the year that happens is not a good bet. The #15 seed has beaten a #2, but it's only happened a couple of times. Once again, this is a good way to start your bracket off on a down note. I know it's sexy to pick the spectacular upset, but stay away from picking upsets in these games and you'll have an easy 8 points (unless of course your alma mater happens to be the underdog in one of those games, then by all means feel free to pick them).

Now that we've gotten you and easy 8 points, let's move on to the harder picks. The first pick that usually sees consistent upsets is the #12 vs. #5 game. I'm not sure why this is, but it's just a fact that at least one #5 will go down in the first round and as many as three have lost in the first two days of the tournament. Picking the upset in this game may hold the key to winning a region. Get it right and your one up on the rest of the pool, get it wrong and you're looking up from the bottom. Here are the key things to look for; look for a team playing close to home, look for a team on a long winning streak (at least 8 or more games), If the #5 went on a miracle streak in their tournament then pick against them, If the #5 has suffered a significant injury to one of their key players, bet against them.

That's about all I have to offer as far as picking goes. The rest of the tournament is pretty much a crapshoot. I've been filling out a bracket for almost 20 years now and I've never won a damn thing. I'm pretty sure that there are six year old girls who are better at this than I am. There was one year that I picked 31 out of the 32 opening day games, but the game I lost happened to be the team that I had picked to win it all (damn you Jason Kidd!). I've picked longshots, I've picked favorites, but in the end, I'm never even close to winning. You'd probably do better picking out of a hat than I will. So good luck with the office pools and may the best woman win (they always do).